Posts Tagged ‘africa bike’
So, with the Africa Bike back on the road (just in time, the car is away for a week!) we now have a full set of bikes. Here’s just a few of them in a bundle:
From back to front:
Caz’s Gazelle Impala 7 with basket and silver Clarjis bags,
Big Blue Bakfiets with orange Clarjis bags,
Caz’s Custom Thorn kiddy-back tandem with SON and Rohloff. Attached to it but just out of shot is her (third!) Burley trailer.
And my Africa bike.
With the exception of the Thorn these are our ‘outside’ bikes. Everyday bikes which spend their whole lives in the *outdoors. In the coming weeks I’m planning to introduce y’all to these bikes individually. Why? Because these are tools, built to do a job. Not super high mileage bikes, not road bikes or dirt bikes. No exotic materials here. Just ordinary – dare I day boring? – everyday workhorses. They are answers to individual questions. Such as ‘How do I deliver a ten year old and a five year old to school and bring home the shopping?’ They are all very capable and share some things in common – such as high bars and hub gears – but different in their specifics.
Yeahbut. Why? Because if we want people to give up their cars we need to present them with realistic practical alternatives. And somewhere in that pile is the ultimate utility bike. Or perhaps its mummy.
It’s extremely unlikely that the quest for the ultimate utility bike will result in just one bike which can do it all. But that shouldn’t stop us seeking it. I’m really enjoying the journey.
*Of course the real reason these bikes are ‘outside’ bikes is because there is no room in the garage. Because it’s full of bikes.
The winter has finally arrived after weeks and weeks of spring type weather which has had nature all confused. Wasps in January?
I have my bike back on the road. Bike #1, my ‘daily’, the Africa Bike. I love all the other bikes, but they aren’t everyday bikes. The Bakfiets weighs a frickin’ ton for a start off.
If you’ve been following this blog (Thanks for reading my drivel by the way, I appreciate it) you’ll know that my Africa bike has been tweaked and tuned in an effort to turn a good tough little workaday bike into the ideal – my ideal – everyday utility bike. It’s an 18″ step-thru chro-moly three-speed with a rear pannier rack, front (frame mounted) cargo rack, puncture resistant tyres and a front mounted kid’s seat for my little Rufus. It’s a tank. It can carry a straw bale, a small boy, a teenage girl, and me. And tow a trailer. All at the same time.
Anyway. Being without it for so long has really brought home to me just how much I missed it. The novelty of the Bakfiets and the more recently acquired Taurus postponed the pain but in the end I was pulling my hair out.
It’s no super model. It’s just a bloody bicycle. But without it I felt bereft. Without it I resorted to the car more often than I should.
The really useful bike. It was only when it was unavailable that I became truly aware of just how useful it is.
It’s back (thanks Ashley at Cycle Heaven!), it has an ice tyre on the front rim all ready for anything the winter can throw at it.
Bring it on.
Last week I took my wheel back to bike shop and left it with them to assess.
Ash, Cycle Heaven’s resident hub expert kindly checked it over. FOC. He backed off the cones, it span ok and I breathed a sigh of relief. When I got it back I put it back in the frame and hooked up the shifter cable to discover that the hub is still – literally – screwed up inside. It doesn’t pedal forward in second. So back it went to the shop. In the bike this time to give Ash a better idea of what the hell is going on.
Meanwhile… My enquiries into the availability of spares have unearthed two facts: A complete rear wheel laced to a SRAM 3 iMotion hub is cheaper to buy than just a hub. And just a hub is cheaper to buy than just the internals. The less you buy the dearer it becomes. How queer.
I await Ashley’s call with trepidation.
Meanwhile… David Hembrow contacts me with news that his Dutch Bike Bits on-line store now stocks good quality Shi**no dynamo-hub equipped front wheels. British readers will be astonished at their low cost. We hope that shipping from Dutchland doesn’t dent their great value.
I hadn’t heard of Taurus Biciclette at all until very recently, even though I consider myself a bike nerd and they’ve been going for more than 100 years. They are a small manufacturer based in Vanzaghello just outside of Milan, Italy. They make city bikes, work-cycles, a tricycle, a tandem and a folder. And a range of classically styled bikes.
I was just saying to Caz the other night how love can take you by surprise, knocking you for six when you least expect it. Well so it was when I caught my first glimpse of the Taurus Contropedale in blue. Blu diplomatica to be precise.
I’ve had some really spectacular bikes over the years, many of which I wish very much that I’d kept hold of. But for the most part, each and every bike I sold financed the next, even better bike. Each new bike was an upgrade. I’ve had 50+ mountain bikes and probably the same again in assorted road bikes, recumbent bikes and trikes, roadsters, folders, fixed-wheels, unicycles, tandems etc. Like many folks who have spent career time at the retail end of the cycle industry, my staff discount was some small compensation for crappy wages and it allowed me to build ever more exotic bikes.
This merry-go-round has slowed significantly in recent years and my fleet has started to settle. I’ve got the bakfiets which you’ve all read about if you’ve been following the blog, the pedal-powered equivalent of a Volvo station wagon. I sold the Colnago to get that. I’ve got the Africa Bike, boring, reliable and capable daily driver with a good level of cargo/kid carrying capacity. Then there’s the Schwinn Black Phantom, my pride and joy. My hot rod which only comes out on dry summery days. And my mountain bike, what’s left of it, since I started selling it and got cold feet when I got to the frame and fork and wheels. I’ll build it back up one day.
What’s missing I suppose is a Brompton L3, but since I lost mine (when my mate Andy was assualted for it and left with a brain injury from which he hasn’t recovered) I haven’t had the inclination (or the dosh) to replace it. And that’s it. If pushed, I’ll admit to the occasional fantasy of building a super posh touring bike, but the likelyhood of me finding the time to head off on a loaded tour any time soon is as remote as the Outer Hebrides. Not in this half of the decade for sure. So I didn’t need another bike.
That was, until I clapped eyes on the Contropedale.
Oh eM Gee, as they say.
I am the kind of geek who frets over the slightest gram – even though I haven’t ridden competitively for thirty years (and even then I wasn’t competitive..). I am the kind of bike nerd who studies the detail on handmade frames for hours on end, who has a collection of images of the tubing arrangements at the seat cluster of the world’s leading carbon fibre TT and Tri bikes. Yes really. Who winces at the sight of Shi**no, even Dura Ace, on a Colnago. But the Contopedale is not an expensive bike. It’s not light either judging by the tubing and construction. It’s really nothing especiale. But to me it is the most beautiful bicycle in the world. It is the bike seen in profile on every bike route sign and painted in white on cycle paths the world over. It is The Bicycle distilled to its very essence.
When I first caught sight of it I knew it would be mine. And with a milestone birthday coming up I had just the excuse I needed.
That Taurus have agreed to feature in the Cyclorama book and the product pages of Cyclorama.net is really just a bonus!
Right click and ‘view image’ to see it in all its glory.
Go on, take a look at that and tell me it doesn’t stir something in your soul. I’ll let you know how it rides when it arrives.
I can’t wait.
I thought I’d give it a couple of weeks before I started gushing about it. So here goes.
OMG. It’s brilliant.
It’s a testament to the builder that this machine has survived so long and still works – it spent a decade in the Get Cycling fleet. In and out of vans, usually with several bikes piled on top of it, or strapped to a trailer spending countless hours hurtling around the country in the pishing rain. To say nothing of the abuse it suffered when it got to where it was going, riding round and round in circles in a muddy field or dusty school yard in-between crashes. I exaggerate for comic effect but it’s not too far from the truth. Roadshow bikes do have hard lives. The original box was crushed by the over enthusiastic use of a cargo strap – and replaced by a monstrosity which weighs twice as much as the original. Why it needed to be quite so ‘well built’ escapes me since the original lasted a decade. But hey. The frame had a re-weld a couple of years ago when a crack was discovered in one of the box’s steel stays. And that’s about it. It ran and ran and ran, got a strip down and a rebuild, powder coated. And then the business changed and they stopped using it.
So now it’s mine!
The first thing I did was replace the rear wheel (a Nexus 4) for the one I had recently built for the Africa Bike (featuring the awesome Fallbrook Industries NuVinci CV hub). Actually, the Nexus has been brilliant, never skipped a beat, but the NuVinci is an awesome thing. A more in-depth review of which will follow shortly.
The original centre stand needs a bit of work to stop it falling down at the slightest bump. So I lashed it up with a bungee and fitted a nice Swiss two legged stand that’s been knocking around the spare parts bin in search of a bike for several years. And in a flash of mild inspiration I fitted a regular one-legged kick stand to the side of the box. God I’m good. Now I have a bike with three stands – there can’t be many of them about!
I take two of the kids (10 and 4) to school in it, transport shopping, bales of straw and compost hither and thither. It’s become my everyday bike of choice, though that may wear off in time… I went to town with the 10 yr old and her cousin on Saturday, bought half a ton of M&S’s finest and weaved our way home through the herds of tourists. It didn’t skip a beat. Brilliant. Brilliant. Brilliant. I love it.
I fitted a Peregrine front tyre (again, one of those odd components I’ve had for years, almost as if it’s been waiting for this bike to come along…) and squirted some Stan’s into both tubes for some comprehensive insurance against flats. And a dynamo and a halogen lamp – I just need to wire them together. Next up: A set of handcrafted wooden mudguards is winging their way from Israel. I want to upgrade the chainset, front brake and possibly add a rim brake to the rear. A new rear tyre would be nice – the Bonty which came on it is looking weary. And long term – a lecky front wheel would be nice.
But the main thing is, of course, that box. The very thing which defines this bike. Built by a cack-handed monkey and bolted on squint. The new box shall be a masterpiece. The trouble is, I can’t decide what to make it from. A little more research is required… Tropical hardwood? Marine ply?
Carbon fibre composite honeycomb laminate…?
There’s a lot going on in this last pic: note the twin legged stand, the hub mounted Shimano ‘M’ brake, those awesome dropouts with integrated chain tensioners, the magnificent NuVinci hub in all its glory – drilled for lightness (snigger!) and the bolt-on/strap-on V brake mounting plate. Rear rack – at least some of it – is welded to the frame so is plenty strong enough to carry a whole human.